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Intern Blog

Saturday 22 September 2018

VOA Public Relations Intern, Yassmin Mostafavi

Voice of America’s integral role and generational impact within my family was the driving force behind my decision to intern with VOA this past spring. A child of two Iranian immigrants, I grew up with stories of my parents’ experiences in Iran’s 1979 revolution. In those days, when an anti-American, Islamic regime was taking over and trustworthy news sources were few and far between, my mother and grandparents would huddle around the radio and listen to VOA broadcasts about America.

Nearly 40 years later in 2018, VOA’s role in Iran and among the Iranian public is as crucial now as it ever was. I had the exciting opportunity to work VOA’s Persian Service during my full-time job with the Public Relations Department. To say the experience was rewarding would be an understatement.

Before joining VOA in late March, I had a limited understanding of VOA’s global presence and the sheer mass of its audience around the world. My first day stands out as the most memorable first day of any internship. I had the opportunity to sit in on several interviews conducted by the son of former Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, as he spoke with different individuals from VOA’s Russian Service. This continued on throughout the tenure of my internship – in the three months that I was here, I was also able to attend an interview between VOA Director Amanda Bennett and Scott MacFarlane from NBC News, as well as watch VOA Reporter Euna Lee being interviewed about her detainment in a North Korean prison.

Aside from being exposed to so many cool behind-the-scenes opportunities, I walked away from VOA with the sense that the community here truly cares about the development of its interns. By chance, I ended up being in the same Uber as Director Amanda Bennett one afternoon on the way to an event for World Press Freedom day. After speaking to her for a little bit and briefly mentioning my background as an Iranian-American college student with fluency in Farsi, I was both incredibly touched and surprised to hear that she had recommended me to intern part-time in the Persian Service.

My contribution to the Persian Service helped me expand and season my Farsi reading and writing skills. I worked alongside their bridge editor (who prepares original Persian stories for sharing with the rest of VOA) and was tasked with reading or listening to different articles or video clips in Farsi and translating them into English. Not only did this help me improve my Farsi vocabulary, I was also learning more about the daily struggles of the Iranian people and issues that are less commonly outlined in the news, such as water shortages, hiking rent prices, and worker strikes.

The growth opportunities that I’ve had here would not be possible without the encouragement and help of my fellow mentors and coworkers. I’m immensely grateful to my supervisor, Michelle, and the rest of the kind Public Relations team: Bridget, Anna, Nigel, George, and Julie – as well as Michael, with whom I worked in the Persian Service. While I’ll miss the hustle and bustle of Washington DC and my diverse, culturally vibrant workplace, I know that my internship at VOA has given me great skills to tackle the working world post-graduation.

Alyssa Bradley - Public Relations Intern

I think it’s a safe bet that there is no other place like Voice of America. Filled with people from various backgrounds to fill its 45 language services, VOA is almost like a miniature United Nations - which makes it one of the coolest places to intern. I learned about countries and languages I had never heard of before and different cultures, all throughout the single building VOA occupies. As soon as I walked in on my first day, I saw a lobby filled with people from diverse cultures, speaking different language, and with a huge range of work and life experiences and knew I had made a great decision on where to intern.

While interning in the Public Relations department of VOA, I gave tours, wrote articles for the website, conducted research, and helped recruit for the VOA Experts page.

When I applied for this position, I’ll admit I had no idea what I was about to get into. Like many other Americans, I had limited knowledge about this government-funded agency and came in with the assumption it was like many other news organizations; however, I immediately learned VOA had many differences. Through giving tours I learned about VOA’s creation, how they work within government, yet remain separate from government influence, and the interesting facts about its journalists and the sacrifices they made to tell America’s story to the world. I realized the impact VOA had on countries around the world who didn’t have their own free media. The people in Public Relations were integral to my experience as well.

I had several projects over the semester that I could not have achieved without the office staff. Everyone wanted to make sure I was getting the most out of my internship experience and that showed through the work I was given. There was never a dull moment in the PR office. My supervisor Michelle kept me engaged by asking me to contribute to the VOA Authors project where many past and current VOA employees and also wrote a book were recognized with short biographies and blurbs about their own writing about on a wide range of subjects, including VOA. She also took me to numerous events. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the George Washington University to hear VOA’s Digital Strategy Director, Matthew Baise, talk about VOA’s impact in Iran. It was exciting to see students and VOA representatives in the room and learn about how VOA do what they do. I even got to write an article for the website about the event (!

The entire public relations staff – Michelle, Bridget, George, Nigel, Julie, and Anna – made my experience this semester fun and kept me on my toes. I am thankful for my time here at Voice of America and I’ll definitely always remember this experience. Who else can say they got to see Greta Van Susteren live in studio, sit in on meetings with staff and congressional liaisons, or go behind the scenes in TV and radio studios? Voice of America is definitely one of the most unique and fulfilling internship opportunities one could have the privilege to gain.

About Alyssa:

Alyssa is a sophomore at American University studying Public Relations and Strategic Communication with a minor in Political Science. Her experience creating social media content for the NAACP chapter on her campus and co-leading the marketing program of American University Ambassadors is what led her to want an internship at Voice of America and continue studying media relations.

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